Double Zucchini Chocolate Muffins

Double Zucchini Chocolate Muffins

Healthy Balanced Snack Secrets

Snacks are so fun, aren’t they!? The best snacks are balanced, containing a carbohydrate plus some protein and/or fat. Snacks can also be a strategic way to get in more fruits and vegetables. Make these muffins as a delicious mid-morning or afternoon pick-me-up. You’ll be satisfying your sweet tooth and nourishing yourself with a healthy, balanced snack. If you want to hear more about the Well Balanced Way to snack, check out our workshop on Balanced Snack Secrets. 

Cooking with Chef Christy

In this episode of cooking with Chef Christy, I bake a delicious muffin that works as a wonderful, balanced snack. While it is not your normal super light and fluffy muffin, it IS very nutritious and fun!

Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

These muffins make the best Well Balanced Snack! They contain carbs, fat, protein, fruits and veggies. making them balanced, nutritous and delicious.

It's a great way to use fresh zucchini and strawberries which are abundant in the summer months.

  • food processor
  • silicone muffin cups
  • cookie/muffin scoop
  • muffin tin
  • mixing bowls (2)
  • measuring cups
  • 1 cup oats (ground (or 3/4 cup oat flour) gluten-free if necessary)
  • 1 zucchini (small) (grated and dried (makes about 1 cup grated))
  • 1 1/2 cup strawberries (chopped)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup almond butter (or alternative)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • 2 Tbs coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

  2. Grind the oats in a blender to create a fine flour (or purchase oat flour).
  3. Grate the zucchini, then squeeze out the excess water in cheesecloth (or chop in a mini food processor to save time).
  4. Chop the strawberries (use a food processor to save time).
  5. Spray muffin tins with baking oil or use silicone liners.
  6. Prepare the wet ingredients:

    In a large bowl: combine the strawberries, nut butter, eggs, and vanilla and stir to combine.

  7. Prepare the dry ingredients:

    In a separate bowl: whisk the oat flour, cinnamon, baking soda, sea salt, cocoa powder, and coconut sugar

  8. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring until just combined.

  9. Fold in the zucchini and half the chocolate chips.

  10. Scoop the batter into 12 muffin tins, filling each about 3/4 of the way full (or completely full if using silicone liners).

  11. Top the muffins with the other half of the chocolate chips.

  12. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

  13. Let the muffins cool for 10 mins in the muffin tins, then remove and let cool on a cooling rack for a few more minutes.

Storing Options:

  • Store in the fridge for a week
  • Freeze for 1-3 months. To freeze, cool completely, and then place muffins in a freezer bag. 

 

Equipment Suggestions:

Snack
baked goods
dairy free, gluten free

Take A Dip

Entertaining this summer?  Make some crowd-pleasing dips. They are a convenient and delicious way to consume a wide variety of anti-inflammatory vegetables, spices, and healthy fats. While we love the convenience of purchased dips like packaged hummus, some brands may contain unnecessary levels of fat, sugar, salt, preservatives, and hard-to-pronounce ingredients. Making dips yourself allows you to control the flavor and quality – and it’s easy!

The best dips begin with a creamy base made from foods such as beans, lentils, avocados, edamame, and roasted vegetables [eggplant, carrots, squash, zucchini, peppers, cauliflower] that are blended with oil or another liquid. Add flavor boosters such as tahini, garlic, hot sauce, nut butters, nuts and seeds, lemon or lime juice, and zest to add dimension. Finish by seasoning with fresh and dried herbs, spices, salt, and pepper, and your dip is complete. Here are some of our favorite combinations with healthy vehicles ideas:

Ingredient and flavor combinations

  • Chickpea hummus [and other beans] – The classic chickpea base is very versatile and can be made with any bean. Add tahini, garlic, lemon, and cumin to chickpeas for a traditional version. Variations include [but are not limited to] roasted red pepper, lemon kale, Moroccan carrot, roasted zucchini, kalamata olive, spicy sriracha, and creamy pesto. Try this crowd-pleasing version for Lemon Dill Hummus.
  • Avocado, AKA guacamole! We love the healthy fats in avocado, but the calories can be intimidating. Cut the amount of avocado in half by adding defrosted edamame beans – you will decrease the calories and increase the protein. Win, win. Add some greens to keep your dip bright and fresh. Our Kale and Edamame Guacamole is a team favorite.
  • Roasted vegetables – Baba ganoush is the ultimate example here – a combination of roasted eggplant, tahini, lemon, and garlic. Other roasted vegetables that work well in dips are butternut squash, cauliflower, zucchini, carrots, and peppers. Roasting them allows you to process vegetables until creamy. Start with store-bought for this nutrient-dense and super flavorful Roasted Red Pepper Walnut Dip.

Vehicles:

  • Carrot chips or sticks – You can purchase prepared crinkle-cut carrot chips or slice carrots on an angle. Baby carrots work too.
  • Cucumber chips – Slice cucumbers on an angle to maximize surface area for scooping.
  • Broccoli or cauliflower – Lightly steam these vegetables to bring out their sweetness – you want them to still have the firmness necessary to dip.
  • Green beans – Remove stems, rinse, and dip. If you prefer, you can lightly steam these as well.
  • Endive – This nutrient-dense vegetable is the ultimate chip – perfect shape, size, and sturdiness.
  • Peppers – Red, yellow, and orange peppers provide a variety of phytonutrients and are milder than green peppers.
  • Celery sticks – Firm and crisp, celery is a go-to vehicle.
  • Snap peas – These can be consumed raw or lightly steamed.
  • Cherry tomatoes – We love using grape tomatoes on our crudités platters, but dipping them can be tricky. Using toothpicks can help keep your fingers free of dip.

If you are interested in more Well Balanced snack options and new recipes, join us for our monthly webinar. 

How to Stick To Your Nutrition Goals This Summer

How to Stick To Your Nutrition Goals This Summer

Summer is right around the corner, and the warmer weather is already here, which means more outdoor adventures after work, more time at the pool, and more getaways! However, with the summer fun comes a change to schedules and routines. For many, this means there is less time for cooking, exercise, and health goals. But what if we told you that you don’t have to put your goals and wellness journey on pause during the warmer months? There are many ways to keep your health a priority as summer heats up. 


Summer, The Well Balanced Way 

Barbecues, graduation parties, vacations, oh my! All can seem like a wrench thrown into nutrition goals. However, remembering how to build a well balanced plate, ditching the all or nothing mindset, and simply enjoying good food and even better company can lead to a stress-free summer. The summer months offer an opportunity to create wonderful memories and oftentimes that includes yummy treats which should be enjoyed guilt-free! Every little effort counts, whether that’s cooking at home 2x per week, eating a side of veggies at 1-2 meals, or going on walks on your lunch break.

Nutritious Food, Fast

If time is more scarce in the summer, do not worry because there are plenty of delicious recipes that can be done in a flash. 

Recipes in 10 minutes or under:

Recipes in 30 minutes or under:

If you find yourself in the car more often in the summer between driving to the beach, drop offs and pickups from camp, or summer get-togethers, then having accessible yet nutritious snacks might be helpful. Keep these in the car or pantry for easy access no matter where you are:

  • trail mix
  • jerky sticks
  • protein bars
  • crunchy chickpeas
  • individually packaged popcorn or nuts 
  • crackers and peanut butter
  • protein powder (mix with water or milk of choice)
  • perishable items that are easy to grab on the way out of the house: 
    • fruit 
    • cheese sticks
    • yogurt
    • baby carrots
    • shelled edamame
    • pre-cut veggies (peppers, cucumbers, radishes, etc.)

This time of year is meant to be enjoyed without the sacrifice of your health goals. Finding quick and easy recipes, bringing fruit or veggies with you to a cook-out, stocking up on nutritious grab-and-go items, and practicing balance will help create a summer without worry. If you are interested in hearing more about sticking to health goals in the summer then watch our most recent webinar. And as always, enjoy the journey!  

How do you practice mindfulness?

How do you practice mindfulness?

In the midst of a fast paced society, there is no shortage of distractions. From the time we wake up to the moment we fall asleep, we experience the urge to check our phones, answer an email, check in with the news headlines for the day, and all the notifications and happenings in between. 

With never ending to-do lists and an abundance of interruptions, it is easy to operate on autopilot, bouncing from one task to the next. But what if the key to fulfillment, productivity, and overall happiness isn’t multitasking, but rather the act of slowing down and appreciating what is happening right in front of us? 

There is nothing more profound than anchoring yourself to the present moment. This idea has made the practice of mindfulness gain popularity in recent years.

What is Mindfulness? 

Mindfulness is living presently in the moment and appreciating its uniqueness, knowing we will never live that moment or experience again. When we are mindful our senses are heightened, making us more aware of the way the afternoon sun feels on our skin, the sound of a summer breeze rustling the leaves of a nearby tree, or the smell of a favorite meal as it travels through the house. 

Whenever we practice mindfulness, we bring a sense of awareness to what we are doing directly through our senses. However, we can also practice mindfulness by bringing attention to our state of mind via our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. As Jon Kabat Zinn, founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, said “Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” And when we do so, we may be restructuring our brains through training this sense of greater awareness. 

The Basics of Developing a Mindfulness Routine 

Mindfulness is a personal practice and can be utilized at any moment. It offers a buffer between external experiences and internal reactions. The best part is that mindfulness is free of cost and you can begin practicing wherever, whenever. Here is how: 

  1. Set aside time (everyday). Choose a time and place where you feel comfortable and won’t be interrupted. Try and do this as consistently as possible, because the more you practice the stronger the mindfulness muscle will become. The good news is that you can do this multiple times a day as a comfortability is created. 
  2. Become an observer. The purpose of being mindful is to observe what is happening in that exact moment, without trying to judge or change anything. The goal is not to achieve nirvana, but to be more aware of what is happening via your senses or thoughts/feelings depending on the scenario. 
  3. Remember your thoughts are like clouds. An easy way to avoid distracting ourselves with our own judgments and perceptions, is to think of them as clouds in the sky. We cannot stop a cloud from passing through, but we can instead just watch without engaging with it.
  4. Return to the observer mindset. When the mind starts taking over and you catch yourself thinking about what’s for dinner or the project that isn’t going well, remember to return to the observer’s mind. Instead of thinking too much about anything, observe what is happening, what you can feel/see/hear/smell/taste, and what emotions arise. 
  5. Give yourself grace. Remember to be free of judgment and criticism, especially when it comes to yourself. A wandering mind is to be expected, so instead of beating yourself up, gently guide yourself to the present and begin again.
  6. Practice in different ways. The more familiar you become with mindfulness, the more you can diversify when and where you practice. It is best to start small and simple, perhaps while sitting outside in a quiet place or somewhere you are alone and at ease. But as this muscle grows, try and do it in a new location or setting. The more mindful we can be in different situations and places, the more present we become in our daily lives. 

More on Mindfulness

Mindfulness is not a destination, but a journey. Just like strengthening any skill, practice and consistency are important. But, there is nothing more profound than anchoring yourself to the present moment. 

Although it is a simple exercise, our thoughts and judgments can sometimes make it feel complicated or difficult. Luckily, there are many experts and resources out there to help. Below is a list of Coach Bella’s favorite mindfulness tools:

  • If you like the sciency side of things, check out episode #533 of the Rich Roll Podcast where he talks to neuroscientist Dr. Huberman on how to change your brain (It can also be found on Spotify, Apple, and other podcast streaming platforms).
  • If you want to know more about mindfulness, check out this article which dives much deeper into its history, meaning, practices, and much more.
  • If you want to learn more about unlocking your mind and healing through the power of thought, listen to episode #243 of ON Purpose with Jay Shetty to hear some wonderful insight from Dr. Joe Dispenza (It can also be found on Spotify, Apple, and other podcast streaming platforms).
  • If you want to incorporate mindfulness into your eating, read one of our previous blogs on mindful eating.
  • If you want to add a mindfulness meditation into your routine, try out the Headspace app or free mindfulness meditations from Mindful.org.
  • If you want to learn more about mindfulness and nutrition, join us May 18 for our monthly webinar.

And as always, remember to enjoy the journey! 

What Can You Do About Leaky Gut? 

What Can You Do About Leaky Gut? 

One of the gut’s important responsibilities is to selectively allow the foods we consume to be absorbed while keeping other unwanted particles and toxins out. But, this is only possible if the cells are working properly and physically joined together very tightly, via tight junctions. 

What can we do to keep those junctions tight? 

One way to approach a suspected leaky gut is to address inflammation and eat a more gut-friendly diet. This means reducing excessive alcohol and processed foods that tend to be high in fat and sugar or artificial sweeteners, adding in gut friendly foods, and focusing on fiber and plant diversity.  

It’s also a good idea to avoid foods that you’re allergic or sensitive to. For example, if you have been diagnosed with celiac disease, you want to be sure to stay away from gluten to avoid an inflammatory response. Or if you are lactose intolerant, it is best to avoid dairy products with lactose. 

Instead, enjoy more foods rich in gut-friendly probiotics and fiber which is a prebiotic, or food for your friendly gut microbes. These include:

  • yogurt or kefir
  • fermented foods/drinks (e.g., kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, and miso)
  • fruits and vegetables (e.g., berries, grapefruit, broccoli, cabbage, leafy greens)
  • nuts and seeds (e.g., walnuts, cashews, and chia seeds)
  • whole grains (e.g., oats, corn, and quinoa)
  • prebiotic foods such as
    • onions 
    • oats
    • garlic
    • green bananas (or right when they turn yellow)
    • asparagus 
    • potatoes

There are also foods with phytonutrients that have proven to help heal the gut and maintain gut health. For example, ellagic acid found in pomegranate, feeds the good bacteria that help protect the gut by maintaining the biofilm in our gut that prevents leaky gut. Sulforaphane in cruciferous veggies (cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, etc) also feeds the good bacteria that are responsible for maintaining a healthy digestive system. Green tea is packed with phytonutrients that are great for the gut. 

Pro Tip: If you’re going to proactively increase your fiber intake, do it over several days or weeks because sudden increases in fiber can cause gas, bloating, and other gut discomfort. If you have IBS, talk to your doctor, or friendly Well Balanced Dietitian, to see if certain fibers may worsen your condition and which are recommended.

If you plan on making changes to your diet and lifestyle, consider keeping a journal to help see if the changes are helping your symptoms.

However, it’s not all about nutrition. Having healthy stress management tools is an important piece in keeping our guts healthy. Whether that is meditation, journaling, spending time in nature, exercise, or another activity that brings you joy. Regular exercise helps maintain the health of your digestive system. This means even a 15- or 20-minute walk after you eat to help you digest your food can have positive effects. And don’t forget the importance of sleep quality and avoiding tobacco products!

It’s not you, it’s your gut

When it comes to leaky gut, a few simple shifts toward a gut-friendly diet can help you tighten those junctions, reduce inflammation, and get rid of unwanted symptoms. 

A leaky gut is associated with gut and non-gut symptoms. It’s an inflammatory condition that has been linked to metabolic disorders, autoimmune conditions, and even mental health. There are certain laboratory markers, stool sample tests, and the Cyrex 2 array test to help diagnose leaky gut. And remember, this is still a rather new area of research, so more information emerges all the time. 

In the meantime, if you have symptoms that suggest a leaky gut, you can move toward a more gut-friendly diet. Try cutting down on alcohol, processed foods, and anything that you may be allergic or sensitive to. Replace these foods and drinks with ones higher in gut-friendly probiotics and fiber. And remember that regular exercise, stress management, and quality sleep are great lifestyle strategies for your gut and the rest of your body.

And of course, your Well Balanced coaches are here to help you! Click here to book a complementary call today!

Is Leaky Gut a Real Thing?

Is Leaky Gut a Real Thing?

Harvard Health calls it a “medical mystery” and “mysterious ailment.” It’s been linked to everything from gut troubles, autoimmune diseases, and even mental health concerns.

I’m talking about “leaky gut” or “intestinal permeability”—have you heard of it?

Many doctors and the established medical community may not recognize it, but there is growing research to suggest it is associated with many health conditions.

What exactly is “leaky gut?” Do you have it? How does it happen? What can you do about it? Hold on to your seats, because this leaky gut train is about to leave the station! 

What is “leaky gut?”

Your gut (gastrointestinal system) is not just a 30-foot-long muscular tube that starts at your mouth and ends with you using the restroom. It’s a vast and complex system with many functions. It breaks down food into smaller digestible bits, keeps it moving through the gastrointestinal tract, and skillfully absorbs water and nutrients while keeping out harmful substances. More and more research has revealed that these essential gut functions are interconnected throughout your body—to everything from your heart to your brain. This means that the foods and drinks you consume can directly affect your health and mood. So maybe it isn’t you after all, maybe it’s your gut. 

Your gastrointestinal tract is lined with millions of cells, all side-by-side in a single layer so thin it’s less than the width of a human hair. Those intestinal cells help the body to absorb what we need from foods and drinks while acting as a gatekeeper, allowing in what your body uses and keeping out what it doesn’t, which ultimately ends up as waste. This ability to selectively allow some things in our gut to be absorbed while keeping others out is only possible if the cells are working properly and physically joined together very tightly. The bonds that keep the cells tightly together are called “tight junctions.” 

Leaky gut happens when the tight junctions aren’t so tight anymore. The cellular barrier is inflamed, irritated or otherwise weakened, allowing tiny holes to appear. These tiny holes or gaps allow things that would normally stay out of the bloodstream into the bloodstream causing a number of issues. When things like food particles, waste products, and bacteria get into the bloodstream your immune system is altered and triggered, responding by attacking the foreign bodies similar to how your immune system would fight the cold virus and cause inflammation. 

Do you have a leaky gut?

The symptoms of leaky gut are similar to those of other digestive conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, and Crohn’s disease. Symptoms can include diarrhea, constipation, cramps, bloating, food sensitivities, or nutrient deficiencies. 

But, because the food particles, toxins, and bacteria have been absorbed into the bloodstream which travels throughout your body, symptoms can appear anywhere. Studies show that leaky gut may feel like fatigue, headaches, confusion, difficulty concentrating, joint pain, or skin problems (e.g., acne, rashes, eczema). Leaky gut is also linked with diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome, liver disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, and autoimmune diseases such as lupus and multiple sclerosis. There may even be links to anxiety and depression.

Many of these gut and non-gut symptoms and conditions are linked to chronic inflammation, but more research is needed to understand how they are connected.

Even if you have some of these symptoms, the fact is, it’s very difficult to diagnose a leaky gut, or how leaky it is. However, many functional and integrative doctors are using the Cyrex Array 2 testing to help determine gut permeability. This means science is heading in the direction of developing tests to diagnose leaky gut. But, in some instances it is difficult to say whether your symptoms are from leaky gut, or whether leaky gut is a symptom of another issue. 

What causes leaky gut?

It’s not 100 percent clear what causes those bonds to loosen and result in tiny perforations in the gut barrier. In fact, we’re just starting to understand how the gut barrier functions and there is a lot of ongoing research.

Part of leaky gut may be due to the genes you inherit from your parents. It can also be from medications or gut infections. Leaky gut is also linked to eating a diet that is low in gut-friendly fiber (adults should aim for 25-30 g of fiber per day). It can also be from consuming too much added sugar and saturated fat. Leaky gut may even result from stress or an imbalance in the diversity and numbers of your friendly gut microbes. As you age your cells can get damaged more easily and heal slowly, including the cells that line your gut. This can leave you more susceptible to loosening of the gut barrier.

The bottom line

More and more research suggests that your gut is deeply interconnected throughout your body—from the brain, to your heart, to your immune system, and even to your mood. This means that the foods and drinks you consume can directly affect your health and mood. The gut’s ability to selectively allow the foods we consume to be absorbed while keeping others out is only possible if the cells are working properly and physically joined together very tightly, via tight junctions. When the cellular barrier lining your gut is inflamed, irritated or otherwise weakened, the tight junctions loosen, allowing tiny gaps for unwanted entities to enter your bloodstream and thus cause leaky gut. This then translates into a slew of symptoms and conditions. However, leaky gut is preventable and treatable. That’s why next week, we’ll discuss strategies for reducing gut inflammation, ways you can keep those tight junctions tight, and how to mitigate the onset of leaky gut (hint: it has a lot to do with nutrition). 

3 Steps to Super Tender and Flavorful Chicken Thighs

3 Steps to Super Tender and Flavorful Chicken Thighs

In this episode of Cooking with Chef Christy we get a brief overview (#lifehack) for adding juicy flavors without the fancy #sousvide equipment. She walks us through starting with a flavorful marinade for protein of your choice (such as chicken thighs). Then you cook them briefly on the grill. Lastly, you put the meat back in the marinade and bake in the oven for a flavor packed #protein.

Doing these steps in this order means that the active cooking time is finished early. You can use this passive cooking time to finish work, go play or prepare any other foods for this meal.

For more help making delicious meals like these, contact us to talk about how you can make more Well Balanced meals at home: https://wellbalancednutrition.com/contact-us/ #cooking #wellbalanced #homemade

First Add Flavor:

A marinade is a fairly quick way to add a ton of flavor to your chicken. We have this DIY recipe for you or you can buy premade spice blends at the store.

Option 1 – Moroccan Marinade (Recipe listed at the bottom of this post.)

Option 2 – Curry Blend (Recipe listed at the bottom of this post.)

Second Sear In The Flavor:

Grill the chicken for 10 minutes to for some caramelization and a bit of char if you’re into that. This step also adds a bit of texture, which holds up even after the finishing step.

Lastly, Finish Cooking In Oven:

In this method, the marinade doesn’t just flavor the outside of the chicken. Braising (which is what’s happening in the oven) allows these flavors to better penetrate the chicken. It also puts any excess marinade to good use here, as too much moisture on the grill tends to get messy.

Moroccan Chicken

  • 1  1/2 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 3 Cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric optional
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Directions
  • Whisk together all ingredients, except chicken, together in a small bowl or measuring cup. Add chicken and let marinade while grill heats or up to 12 hours.
  • Preheat grill.
  • Place chicken breasts on grill, brushing on additional marinade over top. Grill, covered, for 5-6 minutes per side.
  • Place seasoned, grilled chicken thighs into an oven-safe dish, along with any leftover marinade.
  • Add 1-2 ounces of chicken broth.  *In a pinch, just use water. You’ll have plenty of flavors already.
  • Cover the dish tightly with foil and place in a 350-degree oven for 60- 90 minutes. The chicken should be tender and fork-shreddable after 60 minutes but can cook longer for more tenderness.
  • Remove from the oven, allow to cool slightly, and gently shred the chicken with a fork before serving. You can also serve the chicken in larger pieces if desired.
  • SUGGESTION: Serve w/ rice, peppers, green olives, lemon. Add cilantro if you have it. You can use cauliflower rice, whole grain rice, couscous or your favorite grain.

Notes:

  • While many ethnic foods have a reputation for being spicy, they don’t have to be. It’s very easy to omit chiles and build up a tolerance over time if you wish.
  • Fresh spices make a difference. Use dried spices within 3 months of opening for the best flavor.

Curry Chicken

Ingredients
  • 1 T ground coriander seeds
  • 1 T ground turmeric
  • 2 t ground fenugreek seeds
  • 2 t ground cumin seeds
  • 1 t ground ginger
  • ½ t ground black pepper
  • ¼ t ground cinnamon
  • ¼ t ground cloves
  • ¼ t ground cardamom
  • ¼ t ground cayenne peppers (optional)
  • coconut milk or Chicken Broth*
  • 1 lb chicken thighs
Directions
  • Whisk together all ingredients, except chicken, together in a small bowl or measuring cup. Add chicken and let marinade while grill heats or up to 12 hours.
  • Preheat grill.
  • Place chicken breasts on grill, brushing on additional marinade over top. Grill, covered, for 5-6 minutes per side.
  • Place seasoned, grilled chicken thighs into an oven-safe dish, along with any leftover marinade.
  • Add 1-2 ounces of chicken broth or coconut milk.  *In a pinch, just use water. You’ll have plenty of flavors already.
  • Cover the dish tightly with foil and place in a 350-degree oven for 60- 90 minutes. The chicken should be tender and fork-shreddable after 60 minutes but can cook longer for more tenderness.
  • Remove from the oven, allow to cool slightly, and gently shred the chicken with a fork before serving. You can also serve the chicken in larger pieces if desired.
  • SUGGESTION: Serve w/ jasmine rice, shreds of zucchini, and carrots

Notes:

  • I (Christy) like a brighter, more floral curry powder and favor a little more turmeric and less cumin than some blends.
  • Fresh spices make a difference. Use dried spices within 3 months of opening for the best flavor.
  • Plain Greek yogurt (full fat) makes a great base for the marinade too if you have this rather than coconut milk.
Dietitians Give Meal Prep Solution a Try and Here’s What They Thought

Dietitians Give Meal Prep Solution a Try and Here’s What They Thought

Meal planning and preparation are some of the most common struggles we (Lucy, Kristen and Bella) hear about from clients. Whether it’s due to a time constraint, creative block, picky eaters at home, or disinterest in cooking, meal planning and prep often take a back seat in many of our lives. That’s why at Well Balanced we are always looking for new ways to help our clients plan and cook their meals without breaking the bank or requiring hours in the kitchen. So over the past few weeks Kristen and Bella decided to give some meal prep help a try from a local company, Long Life Meal Prep. 

Check out our reviews below!

Bella: 

If you were to talk to my friends and family you would quickly learn I am often the butt of many jokes due to the oxymoron of being a RD that doesn’t always do a good job at feeding herself. Between my work schedule and being a full time student, I often lack the motivation (and time)  to cook 3 meals a day. If I don’t meal prep on Sundays, then I often struggle to come up with dinner ideas. That’s why, just like my clients, I am always looking for new tips and tricks to get nutritious fuel without the hassle. 

So when I had the chance to try Long Life Meal Prep, I couldn’t resist. I found that their meals were a good base, and that adding some additional sauces, spices, and veggies took them to the next level. The convenience was the best part. All I had to do was reheat, add some additional flavors and within minutes BOOM, dinner was served! 

Chickpeas, spaghetti, and spinach – one of Bella’s favorites.

Veggie burritos with cilantro lime dressing

Kristen:

Countless times I tell myself I am going to put together a nice lunch for myself but something stops me from following through with lunch prep- whether it’s the overwhelm of starting or simply time already feeling stretched thin. If I’m lucky, I’ll have leftovers to reheat, but I’m not going to lie some days I end up just eating a granola bar or scramble to put a ho-hum lunch together.

I was excited to get a little help from Long Life Meal Prep since I can be so inconsistent with lunch. It’s funny how making a family dinner that we will all enjoy together is a lot easier to prioritize than my individual lunches. I know I’m not alone because I hear all the time from clients who agree that cooking for yourself is a lot harder to do.

Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner you have a hard time keeping up with, consider getting a little help. It was so nice having these meals ready for me when things got busy. Why not take something off your plate and make healthy eating easier?

Mixed vegetables with potatoes, kale, carrots, and mushrooms. Kristen added leftover chicken and curry powder to round out the meal and reheated in a skillet.

Chicken and zucchini covered with tomato sauce and cheese.

Pro Tips for Using a Meal Prep service like Long Life Meal Prep:

Letting someone take over the job of prepping frees up more brain space and creativity to make the meals work for you. Don’t assume that every meal is perfect for you as is. Put some time and effort into making it satisfying and filling. These meals often start at a low calorie level. You may need more energy to make it through the day. Here’s what you can add to your meals.

  • Flavor. Some meals are loaded with flavor like Bourbon Grilled Chicken or Honey Sriracha Chicken Bowl. If you choose a more basic meal, think of it as a blank slate to add your own type of flare! It can quickly be jazzed up with your favorite sauce or seasoning blends.  Flavor boosters don’t have to add a ton of extra calories or unneccesary ingredients if you make your own or pick high-quality store bought versions. (Need help? Lucy and Bella will be sharing fast and easy ways to add flavor to your meals on this month’s webinar. Sign up now!)
  • Fiber. Some meals may be too low in carbohydrates for you and could use a fiber boost. Simply add some whole grains, starchy vegetables, beans, or your favorite bread to the meal to round it out and make it complete.
  • Fun. Long Life Meal Prep has some fun snack/dessert options that are made with minimal sugar and added protein. Adding fun items like this to your routine in addition to Well Balanced meals will make it easier to eat well without feeling like you are missing out on anything.

A few more tips:

  • If you have time, heat your meals in an air fyer, toaster oven or on a skillet. This delivers the best flavor and quality.
  • If you can’t eat your meal within the week, keep them in the freezer for later. The day before you are ready to eat it, put it in the refrigerator to thaw overnight before heating the next day.
  • Need help getting your meals just right? Give them a call. They will be happy to work with you to personalize your order.

Meals are tightly sealed to stay fresh.

Having the nutrition facts allows you to customize your meals to meet your nutrition needs.

Wanna Try Long Life Meal Prep, too? Here’s how:

Long Life Meal Prep is a company based in Jamestown, NC, but they ship anywhere. If you live near one of their “pick-up” locations you can save 20% off your order by dropping in to grab your meals each week.

Here’s how to order:

  • Simply browse the menu
  • Add meals, snacks and juices to your cart
  • Select either delivery or find your pick up location at check out
  • Enjoy your food!

Ready to try? Use the code: WellBalance10 to get 10% off your first order! Put Well Balanced Nutrition in the comments section on follow up orders to let them know who sent them.

Nutrition Tips for the Onset of Menopause

Nutrition Tips for the Onset of Menopause

Menopause. The change. Whatever you call it, it’s important to remember that it’s not a disease to be treated, but rather a normal stage of life. Menopause “officially” starts 12 months after your last period. That happens, on average, around the age of 51.  Perimenopause often starts in the early- to mid-40s. This is when some may start feeling symptoms like:

  • Weight gain—especially around the midsection
  • Hot flashes and night sweats
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Mood fluctuations

Why does this even happen? Some of the reasons behind all these changes include your changing hormones, metabolism, stress levels, and lifestyle.

Because your body goes through all these changes, its nutritional needs also change. Here are some expert nutrition tips to help you navigate the onset of menopause.

Nutrition tips for Perimenopause and Menopause

1. Hydration is Helpful

Some key menopausal symptoms may be improved simply by drinking more fluids. If hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, or bladder infections are affecting you, try drinking at least six 8-oz glasses of water per day to help hydrate you. It’s important to remember that we all slowly lose our sense of thirst with age. This means you can become less hydrated without even noticing it, through no fault of your own. So find ways to make it easy and appealing to sip on a hydrating beverage all day long. If water is challenging to drink, try herbal teas or jazz up your water with a lemon or lime. Start early in the morning so you get your fluids in well before it wakes you up in the middle of the night.

2. Rethink that Night Time Drink

Although that glass of wine feels like a great way to unwind at the end of the day, think about whether it is truly helpful. Alcohol can worsen hot flashes and make it harder to stay asleep. It can also increase your risk of getting or worsening many health conditions. Not to mention it can make you forgetful and confused, and can even lead to loss of muscle mass, balance problems, falls, and accidents. A nightly glass of wine may also be contributing unnecessary calories, especially with a heavy pour.

3. Cut down on spicy foods, caffeine, and sugar

If hot flashes bother you, consider avoiding common triggers like spicy foods and caffeine.

When it comes to sugar, the simplest way to cut down is to replace sugar-sweetened drinks with water or herbal tea. Also, excess sugar can be coming from things like chocolate, doughnuts, pastries, desserts, and snacks. If the thought of cutting out all sweets doesn’t sound fair (we agree), try eating smaller portions or even half-sized desserts. A recent study showed that menopausal women who ate more sweets, fats, and snacks suffered from menopausal symptoms more than those who ate more fruits and vegetables. We’re talking hot flashes, night sweats, muscle and joint problems, and bladder issues were all worse for the dessert-lovers. Again, that doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself completely! Find creative ways to enjoy sweets in a new, healthier way.

4. Be mindful of your energy needs. 

For most, metabolism slows down gradually as we age. It happens for many reasons including the fact that we tend to move around less throughout the day, exercise less, and we lose muscle mass that doesn’t get used regularly.  This means that by continuing to eat the same amount of food as you did in your 30s and 40s, you’ll start gaining weight. On average, women in their 50s and 60s gain about 1.5 pounds every year. Mindful eating can help. Try starting with smaller portions and paying attention to how much you need to feel full and satisfied.

PRO TIP: Avoid eating large meals close to bedtime, particularly if you have trouble sleeping.

5. Eat higher-quality foods

Focus on quality foods packed with nutrients (i.e., nutrient-dense foods). Think fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. Eating enough protein cans support your muscles and bones. You can get protein from legumes, nuts, seeds, fish, and/or poultry. A recent study showed that menopausal women who ate the most greens had the fewest complaints about typical menopausal symptoms like hot flashes. By eating more nutrient-dense foods like these ones you’ll get more vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein—all of which are very important to maintain your health at and beyond menopause.

PRO TIP:  Your bones love calcium and vitamin D. Some of the richest sources of these are dairy products, fish with bones, and foods fortified with these nutrients (check your labels).

Bottom Line

A few simple diet and lifestyle changes can help you navigate the onset of menopause.

Be sure to drink enough fluids, but minimize alcohol; cut down on spicy foods, caffeine, and sugar; eat mindfully and focus on higher-quality food. Lastly, include soy foods in your diet if you enjoy them, but don’t expect it to miraculously solve any bothersome menopausal symptoms.

If you’d like personalized nutrition recommendations and coaching to help you feel your best during perimenopause and menopause, let’s start with a phone conversation to see how we can help! Set up a call today. 

Related: 

The Truth About Hormones and Nutrition – Free Workshop Recording. Nutrition can help support your hormone health. We share nutrition tips to help with sleep, your menstrual cycle, stress, and appetite.

 

Simple Arugula Radicchio Salad with Farro, Walnuts, and Oranges

Simple Arugula Radicchio Salad with Farro, Walnuts, and Oranges

In the second episode of Cooking With Chef Christy, you’ll learn how to make a delicious and hardy salad with heart-healthy additions.

Are salads really healthy?

Salads are a great way to get in a lot of colorful plant-foods, but not every salad is a great choice. It is easy to think a salad is the healthiest option on the menu when sometimes it can be more than you need. On the flip side, a salad can lack a balance of nutrients and elements that keep you full and satisfied. Salads vary widely and the right salad for you should fit your energy needs and keep you satisfied. 

How to make a salad balanced AND delicious?

Just like any meal, a salad needs a few things to be balanced AND delicious. First, include fiber, protein, and fat. Fiber can come from foods like starchy vegetables, beans, or whole grains. Protein can come from eggs, beans, nuts, seeds, meat, fish, or tofu. Fat can come from nuts, seeds, avocado, egg yolks, meat, and/or dressing. Having each of these nutrients present in your salad not only make it well balanced, but will keep you full longer.

Secondly, include an element that ramps up the satisfaction level of your meal. That might be a crunch factor, a bit of sweetness from fruit or dressing, something spicy, something creamy, or a combination. Both the nutrition and the satisfaction level of your food matter.

Be aware of how energy-dense ingredients like dressings, nuts, avocado, fried meats, cheese, dried fruit and bacon bits can add up quickly and come with more sugar, salt, fat, and calories than you may want or need in your salad. 

Here’s what ingredients makes up the Arugula Radicchio salad. The only thing left to add is a piece of salmon or other great protein-rich option to round out this colorful dish.

Arugula

  • A cruciferous vegetable full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants
  • Offers some spicy flavors to the salad.

Radicchio

  • A member of the chicory family
  • Offers a pleasantly sharp and bitter flavor.
    • CULINARY NOTE – The fat from the salad dressing and the acid from the citrus help curb/compliment the bitterness of this nutritous and colorful veggie. 
  • It’s beautiful purple color is thanks to the anthocyanins present in the plant. Research shows that foods rich this chemical can have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and anti-diabetic effects. It is also great for brain health and helping to prevent heart disease.

Farro

  • Farro is a high-fiber whole grain.
  • One serving of cooked farro (1/2 cup) contains about 100 calories and 1g of fat, 4g of protein, and 26g of carbohydrates.
  • It is an ancestor of modern wheat and contains gluten.
  • Commonly used in Italian cooking.

Olive Oil-Based Dressing

  • Olive oil is considered a healthy fat.
  • It’s the primary source of added fats in the Mediterranean diet.
  • It’s rich in heatlhy monounsaturated fat, which lowers total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (or “bad”) cholesterol levels. 

Walnuts

  • Walnuts are the only tree nut that is considered anexcellent source of Omega-3s fatty acids.
  • A one-ounce serving of walnuts provides 2.5 grams of plant-based omega-3 fatty acid (ALA), 4g of protein and 2g of fiber
  • A serving of walnuts is also a good source of magnesium (45mg)

Seasonal Fruit

  • Fruit is a great way to add some extra fun, flavor and nutrition to your salads. In the winter, citrus fruit is perfect. In the summer, you have a variety of berries and tropical fruits to choose from. 

How to make your own salad dressing

Nothing elevates a salad to “yum” status quite like a tasty, clingy dressing. Making your own salad dressing is simple, cost effective, and a great way to control additives, like sugar and preservatives, that might be hiding in processed varieties. Follow this DIY Salad Dressing Formula to make your own. You can play with the ratios but this is always a great to start! Have fun with it and find the combinations you love.

DIY SALAD DRESSING OIL TO VINEGAR RATIO:

  • 4 TBS Oil
  • 2 TBS Vinegar
  • 1 TBS Fresh Chopped Herbs (or 1 tsp dried herbs)
  • 1 TBS Chopped Garlic
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

 

Simple Arugula Radicchio Salad with Farro, Walnuts, and Oranges

Simple Arugula Radicchio Salad with Farro, Walnuts, and Oranges

A beautiful, satisfying salad that pairs well with any protein-rich food.

  • 3 cup arugula
  • 1 Heads radicchio lettuce (chopped)
  • 1 1/2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbs red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 lemon (juiced (for 1 tbsp juice))
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 Mandarin Oranges
  • 1/2 cup farro (uncooked)
  • 2 oz walnuts (1 ounce – 14 halves)
  1. Follow directions on the package to cook farro. (*Trader Joe’s sells a small bag of farro that cooks in 10 minutes.)
  2. Toast walnuts in a toaster oven at 300 – 325 degrees for about 8-10 minutes.
  3. Wash and dry lettuces.
  4. Chop radicchio.
  5. Peel and slice oranges.
  6. Add oil, mustard, vinegar, and lemon juice to a small mason jar. Shake to combine.
  7. Add lettuces to bowl and toss to coat.
  8. Add about 1/2 cup of your cooked farro on top.
  9. Garnish with orange slices or wheels.